Letters: Challenging the baker — The right to free speech, or the right to discriminate?

The right to free speech, or the right to discriminate?

Re: “Jack Phillips’ cakes are expression and should be protected,” June 23 commentary

Krista Kafer’s Sunday editorial defending “Jack Phillip’s cakes” does make sense on the most superficial level. Should a hired singer have to sing a racist song for a Ku Klux Klan rally? Or should a baker have to put a swastika on the wedding cake of an avowed Nazi?

The problem is that Klansmen and Nazis are not protected minority groups under civil rights statutes. Blacks, gays, and trans people are. Thus, Jack Phillips has no more right to refuse a wedding cake for a gay couple or a pink and purple cake for a trans woman than he would to refuse to make a wedding cake for an interracial couple.

And it was not long ago that many Southerners claimed deeply held Bible-based religious beliefs against interracial marriage. If allowed, the next step would be to allow a hotelier the right to refuse a room to a biracial couple or a gay couple or a trans woman. We have civil rights laws to protect minorities for a reason. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with those laws. We have freedom of thought and expression in this country. But you aren’t free to discriminate against protected classes of people in the public marketplace.

Marcus Pohlmann, Highlands Ranch

I used to live in Lakewood and attended 12-step meetings at the clubhouse two doors down from Jack Phillips’ shop. Jack would make celebration cakes for us, and he served the most delicious, reasonably priced lattes in the neighborhood. Jack always had a treat and kind word for anyone who came in. We often talked about his art, court cases, politics and religion. Jack had firm beliefs and his art was just that; his art. I went to the same church on occasion as Jack. Jack and I didn’t agree on everything, but we shared a love for his art.

Here’s the thing: In this latest trans case, Jack is being set up. Jack was set up several times by the LGBTQ+ community before and after his seminal U.S. Supreme Court case. Setting someone up, taking away their joy (Jack no longer makes wedding cakes because he’s been set up), taking away a substantial source of income — that’s just mean. The LGBTQ+ community is doing the same thing to Jack as was done to them.

Ginger Harris, Denver

Hello, I’d just like to express extreme disappointment in your publishing of the following sentence in Krista Kafer’s recent opinion piece on the gender transition cake case:

“[Science] can only answer questions about biological sex affirming that there are two sexes, male and female, which are determined at the beginning of life.”

While I agree with the sentiment of much of the article with regard to free speech, this sentence ignores the fact that thousands of intersex people are born each year, let alone the fact that many people experience hormone imbalances caused by either genetic or environmental factors that result in biological development that doesn’t fit neatly into a male or female categorization.

Allowing your opinion columnist to publish a factually incorrect sentence that misleadingly presents itself as cold, hard science is a disservice to your readers and further marginalizes people who deal with the realities of a non-binary biology (in contrast to the psychological body dysmorphia the author is attempting to make a point about).

I would like to see the author issue a correction to this piece and an apology to intersex people who are continually told by non-scientists that their genetics and biology at birth are somehow invalid according to science.

Mike Lewis, Denver

Coaches and professors should not date students. Period.

Re: “Abuse of power — DU and CU still allow coaches to pursue sexual relationships with student athletes, against NCAA recommendations,” June 23 commentary

Thank you for Karen Denison Clark’s opinion column in Sunday’s Perspective Section. I wish it had been a headline news article on the paper’s front page where it really belongs. I’d like to know what the regents at DU and CU have been smoking or is it some of the mushrooms they’ve been imbibing in?

Does anybody recognize the names Jerry Sandusky or Larry Nassar? If I were in the leadership of either university, I’d not demand the resignation of any coach or professor sexually involved with a student; I’d fire them for cause. Period.

Truthfully, I wish I were an attorney because I know I could get rich being an ambulance chaser with these policies.

Both of these schools better reevaluate this policy and change it pronto. If I were a parent, I wouldn’t send my child to either school.

Steven Williams, Grand Junction

Barnes & Noble champions Colorado authors

Re: “Will Barnes & Noble save or destroy Tattered Cover?” June 23 editorial

The community and the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame fully support Barnes & Noble’s resurrecting Tattered Cover. With James Daunt taking the reins of B&N as CEO in 2019, one of his missions was to create and transform the chain into a bookseller that supports the community and local authors.

In Colorado’s Front Range, it has enthusiastically aided the bookselling efforts of many local authors. With the support of B&N and its Bookfairs, 50 Colorado-connected authors have been inducted into the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame. When Joyce Meskis, former owner of the Tattered Cover, was honored at the first induction in 2019 for her vision and contribution to and for authors, the event had a sold-out crowd. B&N was there.

At the 2023 Induction, B&N was honored with the Best Bookseller Supporting Authors. The Hall also delivers the Aspiring Author Scholarships to five recipients every other year — scholarships valued at $15,000 each. One carries the B&N name and is financially supported by the company throughout the year with donations that B&N contributes from the BookFairs in many of its bookstores. Five more will be named this September.

Speaking for both and the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame, Barnes & Noble could restore the honor and respect that Tattered Cover once had and was lost from the mismanagement that occurred after Joyce Meskis sold and retired.

Judith Briles, Aurora

Editor’s note: Briles is president and CEO of and Colorado Authors Hall of Fame

We can clean up our skies

Re: “Is Earth really getting too hot for people to survive?” June 23 commentary

The words “climate change” are so controversial.  Believe, not believe, fake news, real news or what. But it’s next to impossible to argue with the following two sentences: “When people burn carbon — whether it’s coal in a power plant or gasoline in a vehicle — it creates carbon dioxide (CO2). This invisible gas builds up in the atmosphere and traps the sun’s warmth near the earth’s surface.”

We cleaned up our rivers in the 1970s; no reason we can’t clean up our skies now.

Kimberly Konkel, Denver

Petitioning for change: There must be a better way

Passionate about a potential ballot measure? You’ll see petitioners gathering signatures to place it on the ballot. Seems straightforward, but it’s not. According to Article V of the Colorado Constitution, signatures equal to 5% of the votes from the last general election are needed, which would be 124,238 signatures.

Gathering 20 signatures per hour (a very optimistic figure), volunteer petitioners would need 6,212 hours. With jobs and families, a passionate volunteer might petition 5 hours a week. Enter the industry of signature gathering. Firms pay anywhere from $5 to $15 per signature. The gatherers are a motley crew of individuals willing to leave their families for weeks at a time to travel to each state that needs a new measure passed. Very few of the people gathering signatures are even voters in your state.

Why do we rely on this outdated system? We have the technology for secure, efficient voter engagement via text. The current process favors the wealthiest backers, as usual, not the public good. It’s time for change.

Wyatt Carr, Denver

I am a strong supporter of the First Amendment right “to petition the Government for redress of grievances.” A manifestation of that right is the Colorado initiative, whereby anyone, after collecting sufficient signatures, can have any matter they wish to be law put on the ballot for the voters, not the legislature, to decide. While implementing the First Amendment guarantee, the initiative process often litters the Colorado ballot with complex issues that voters are ill-equipped to adjudicate.

Deciding on which candidates for office deserve our vote (the primary purpose for an election) is challenge enough for some people, and a litter of initiative issues also requiring their decision prompts some voters to not vote on them at all, or worse, to not vote at all.

I propose a revision to the initiative process. The legislature, in its next session, would be required to consider issues that the petition process had qualified to be on the ballot. If the legislature failed to act to the satisfaction of the advocates, the matter would then be placed on the ballot for the voters to decide.

A more desirable outcome would be for the legislature to debate the matter, receiving testimony from the advocates and any other party with “skin in the game.” The decision, whether yea or nay, would be the result of the legislative process, which is fundamental to our republican system of government and, despite its flaws, the most reliable method to determine our laws.

David Wolf, Lakewood

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